This story is largely based on my experiences as a dog breeder. Suffice it to say that I was poking a lot of fun at myself and my fellow dog breeders. I don't know much about pig breeding, to be honest (although the sow gestation period is in fact accurate).
There was a pig in the kitchen.
Frodo Baggins stopped short in the doorway and stared in disbelief. “Sam!” he exclaimed. “What is that?”
Sam Gamgee, sitting at the kitchen table cooing to a squirming, grunting black and white piglet he held in his arms, looked up in surprise. “You know right well what it is, Frodo, or rather,” he added with a hurt look, “who. ‘Tis Flame.”
Frodo took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He seemed to be doing that quite often of late. “My dear, you know I cannot tell Flame apart from Flirt, Fern or… or…” His memory failed him. There were simply too many pigs at Bag End now to keep track of them all, particularly as Sam had given each one a name beginning with the letter ‘F’ (a tribute to Frodo that he found quite touching, while at the same time being very grateful Sam hadn’t decided to name one of the piglets ‘Froda’).
“Flurry, Flare, Fidget, Frost and Flax,” Sam supplied helpfully. “Flame’s the one has got this flame-shaped white mark. See?” He pointed to a white splotch on the piglet’s shoulder that could, Frodo supposed, be interpreted as a flame- if one had imbibed a sufficient quantity of the Gaffer’s home brew, that is. “Means she’s going to be a flyer, just like her mum. Now Flirt, she’s got—“
“Sam.” Frodo took another deep breath. “Let us leave the topic of pig markings for another time, please, and tell me why Flame is in the kitchen? Is she ill?” He tried to keep a hopeful note out of his voice. Of course, he couldn’t really wish any harm to befall the offspring of one of the two pigs for whom he had a genuine fondness, but he sometimes wondered if Fancy found her brood as trying as Frodo did.
“Nay, Flame’s fit as a fiddle,” Sam said. “But as for why she’s in the kitchen,” he continued a trifle hesitantly, obviously sensing that Frodo wasn’t keen on the piglet’s presence at the breakfast table, “I thought it would be good socialising for her, seeing as how she’s going to be a racing pig. Get her used to strange places and sounds now, while she’s young.”
Frodo thought Sam ought rather to have brought Flame into their bedroom the previous night if that was his intention, for there had been strange sounds enough then to socialise even the wildest pig. But recalling Sam’s moans and groans of ecstasy (not to mention his own) only emphasised for Frodo his current state of disgruntlement.
After such a night as last night, one that had left him pleasantly sore, totally satiated and inclined to wear a silly grin on his face, the last thing Frodo wanted to discuss over the breakfast table was pig husbandry. He had hoped, in fact, to toddle along to the kitchen and enjoy a peaceful, uninterrupted breakfast during which he would (silly grin firmly in place) relive the delights of the previous night, and perhaps devise a few more for the one upcoming.
Instead, the object of his lustful fantasies was dandling a baby pig on his knee and looking at it with an appallingly indulgent expression.
“I’m very sorry, Sam,’ Frodo said firmly, “but the kitchen is no place for a pig. Surely you can find somewhere else to, uh, socialise Flame. Somewhere,” he hastily added, lest Sam misunderstand, “outside the smial.”
“I asked my old dad if I could bring her to Number Three,” Sam replied, “but, well, he didn’t take to the idea. Said he’d never heard such a load of claptrap in his life, and a pig would cross the threshold of his hole over his dead body.”
Loathe though Frodo was to agree with Sam’s father (who was, in his opinion, woefully unappreciative of the jewel of a hobbit who was his son), he was reluctantly forced to concur. It was on the tip of his tongue to offer Brandy Hall as a possibility (the image of Flame and her seven unruly littermates tearing through his Aunt Esme’s sitting room proving nigh irresistible, and confirming Frodo’s private conviction that some small part of him would always remain the ‘Terror of Buckland’), but he restrained himself.
Then a sudden inspiration hit him. “What about the Ivy Bush?” he suggested. “Perhaps you can take Flame there.” He distinctly recalled seeing the odd fowl or two roaming the common room from time to time, and there was that memorable occasion when an extremely well-to-live hobbit had brought a goat inside with interesting results.
Sam looked thoughtful, but then he regretfully shook his head. ”If I bring Flame to the Ivy Bush, there’s folk as’ll be nagging me to buy her. Folk,” he added darkly, “as don’t know the proper way to raise a pig, especially a racing pig.”
“You mean Ted Sandyman?” Frodo asked, recalling with unholy amusement the ill-trained pig that the miller’s son had raced at the Free Fair. She had quit only a few feet away from the finish line.
At the mention of that name, a spark lit Sam’s warm hazel eyes, but he said with an aggrieved expression, “Now Frodo, I’ve got a mort of work to do in the garden today. It ain’t fair to go distracting me like that.”
In point of fact, Frodo had for once been innocent of trying to distract Sam. But it was true that the words ‘Ted Sandyman’ exercised a powerful effect upon Sam, and had ever since that never-to-be-forgotten moment when Frodo had knocked Ted on his arse at the Fair two years earlier. Who would ever have thought, Frodo marvelled (by no means for the first time), that that name would prove such a potent aphrodisiac?
“Besides,” Sam continued, a slight blush darkening his cheeks, “I don’t know how you can be thinking on…” he glanced down at Flame, who had stopped squirming and had her tiny round black eyes fixed on Sam’s face as if listening to his every word, “that after last night. Plumb wore out, I am.”
“Then I’d say an early night is clearly in order,” Frodo replied irrepressibly, and grinned as Sam’s blush deepened. But really, it was entirely Sam’s fault that Frodo’s mind was turning to that, as Sam so delicately put it (and did pigs have sensibilities that could possibly be offended by frank talk about lovemaking? Frodo wondered).
The fabric of Sam’s breeches was pulled taut across his muscular thighs, and the top two buttons of his shirt were undone, exposing the strong brown column of his throat. His hair was wind-tumbled and he had his shirtsleeves rolled up, revealing equally muscular forearms dusted with golden hair, forearms that Frodo had admired only last night as they were braced on either side of his head while Sam was--
Flame apparently did have sensibilities that could be offended, or perhaps she was simply tired of being held on Sam’s lap. For whatever reason, she suddenly and violently shot free of Sam’s restraining arms, leapt down to the floor and, squealing at the top of her lungs, began tearing madly about the kitchen as if Sam was waving a white cloth at her and shouting ‘pighooey’.
In the ensuing mayhem, Flame sent two stools flying, upset the footbath, tipped over the ash bucket, and knocked the fire irons to the floor with an almighty clatter, before a desperate Sam made a lunging dive to catch her.
“I’m that sorry, Frodo,” Sam apologised, climbing to his feet with the struggling Flame in his arms. He thrust the piglet at Frodo, who took her, albeit reluctantly. “Here, you hold onto her while I clear up this lot.”
The cloud of fine grey ash was settling, mixing with the water from the foot bath to create a muddy stream across the stone flags. Frodo looked at Flame, trying to ignore the fact that she was rather an engaging piglet in her own way, with exceptionally long and floppy ears, curling lashes and a cute, upturned snout.
“You,” he said, eyeing her severely, “are a Bad Pig.”
Flame stared back. And then she proceeded to demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, precisely why a pig had no place in a respectable hobbit kitchen, narrowly missing Frodo’s feet in the process.
“A Very. Bad. Pig.” Frodo added, stepping hastily backward.
Flame not only appeared entirely unrepentant, but Frodo felt certain there was a smug gleam in her small round eyes.
“Oh no,” Sam moaned, as a distinctive odour slowly permeated the room. “Oh Frodo, I…” Words seemed to fail him as he stared at the gently steaming brown pile on the floor.
Sam moaning ‘Oh Frodo’ was generally one of life’s pleasanter sounds, but not upon this occasion. “Sam,” Frodo said in an oddly stifled voice, for he was trying to speak without breathing through either his nose or his mouth, “I think it would be best if you took Flame back to the pen and left me to do the cleaning up.” He held the piglet out at arm’s length, and Sam took her back.
“Frodo, I…” he began again, but Frodo only shook his head and pointed an imperative finger at the door.
As Sam carried Flame out of the kitchen, Frodo heard him say in a hearty voice, “Now, don’t you go a-taking Frodo’s words to heart, Flame-lass. He knows you ain’t really a bad pig.”
Pig blind, Frodo thought ruefully, as he hurried into the storage cupboard to get a wooden bucket, mop and soap flakes. When it came to Fancy’s brood, Sam was indubitably pig blind.
Holding his breath, Frodo swiftly tackled the most offensive of the messes that Fancy had created, wielding the wet mop with astonishing vigour considering he’d not yet had his first morning cup of tea.
He’d had a strange feeling all along that breeding Fancy was a bad idea. At the Free Fair two summers ago, while Sam was busy discussing pedigrees and prospects with Fancy’s admirers, a sudden and alarming vision of tiny piglets swarming through the Bag End gardens like an invasion of squealing, grunting, black and white locusts, had come to Frodo. Little had he known then how prescient that vision had been.
Sam had spent much of the long drive back to Bag End from Michel Delving after the pig races in expounding at length on the merits of the various boars to whom Fancy might be bred. Frodo hadn’t wanted to spoil that blissful journey with an argument, but a few days after they arrived home, he had attempted to discuss the matter of Fancy’s potential motherhood in a calm and rational manner.
“Now Sam,” Frodo had said, calmly and rationally, “don’t you think that two pigs living at the bottom of the garden is quite enough? Flower and Fancy produce more than sufficient, er, fertilizer for the garden, don’t they? Is it really necessary to breed Fancy?”
“But… but… but…” had spluttered Sam in disbelieving tones, “Fancy’s the Free Fair Champion, Frodo. She ain’t no ordinary pig. Why, I’ve got half a dozen farmers already a-waiting on piglets out of her.” He gave Frodo a reproachful look. “Besides, Fancy raced her heart out for you, now didn’t she, and she’d be that hurt if she could hear you say that all she’s good for is producing fertilizer.”
Oh dear, Frodo had thought, and lain a contrite hand on Sam’s arm. “Sam, I’m very fond of Fancy, and of Flower, too. Indeed, they are the most extraordinary pigs in the whole of Middle-earth: the cleverest, the fastest, and the most, um, beautiful.”
It wasn’t a lie, for Frodo (to his astonishment) had quite fallen in love with the pair of Brandywine Black-and-Whites, and succumbed to a severe case of pig blindness himself. Since that memorable day when Fancy and Flower had come first and third in the Pig Racing Championship, Frodo had got into the habit of venturing down to their pen several afternoons each week (armed with a pocket handkerchief sprinkled with lavender oil to hold over his nose, depending on the direction of the wind). There he would spend an hour or so visiting with the sows, reaching between the fence rails to scratch them on their bony foreheads, or feeding them acorns, or watching them wallow happily in the mud, or root around their pen looking for the treats Sam hid for them.
To Sam’s joy and bemusement, Fancy had gone on to a sterling racing career, retiring at last undefeated, while Flower had amassed a respectable collection of seconds and thirds, losing only to her speedier sister and sometimes to Bess, the Longbottom Lop who had come second at the Free Fair. The parlour shelves were filled to overflowing with the trophies and rosettes they had won (not to mention the collection of rather ugly pig statuettes that Frodo would dearly have loved to turn into mathoms for his least favourite relations, but that Sam cherished with a fervour that made such a plan unthinkable). But after two seasons of racing glory, Sam had retired the pigs, saying that they had nothing left to prove, and it was time to let some of the up and coming youngsters have their opportunity.
Frodo had sometimes wondered if the sows missed the excitement of their racing days and the cheers of the admiring throngs. Perhaps, he would muse, when the pigs were stretched out on their sides snoozing in the sun, they dreamt about the events of the Free Fair, just as he did. Well, perhaps not just as he did; Frodo’s dreams tended to revolve around the knocking of Ted Sandyman on his arse, and its positively electrifying effect upon Sam. But Fancy and Flower seemed quite unspoilt by their renown as racing pigs, and appeared to have no regrets about the return to their quiet life at the bottom of the garden.
“Well then, don’t it stand to reason that Fancy should have a chance to pass on them qualities?” Sam had said, neatly turning Frodo’s words back on him. “And besides, Frodo, I’ve such dreams, you’ve no idea…”
As a matter of fact, Frodo had a very good idea, for he’d heard all about the new strain of pig that Sam hoped to perfect, first by breeding Fancy and then Flower, and then mating their offspring. “I’d like to call the strain the ‘Bag End Fancy’, if you’d not object,” Sam had said diffidently, “nor think Mr. Bilbo’d object neither.”
Frodo, touched (and, to be perfectly truthful, somewhat amused), had assured Sam that he had no objection whatsoever, and that, far from minding, the idea of a breed of pig being named in honour of his beloved hole would have appealed to Bilbo’s eccentric sense of humour.
In the face of Sam’s dreams and the imploring expression in his beautiful green-gold eyes, Frodo (despite his misgivings) could no longer argue, but had surrendered to the inevitable. “Very well, Sam dear. If you wish to breed Fancy, I shan’t try to stop you.”
In the ensuing weeks and months, deciding which lucky pig would be chosen as Fancy’s future mate had taken up an inordinate amount of Sam’s (and therefore Frodo’s) time. The kitchen table was soon littered with sheets of parchment containing pig pedigrees, and Raising the Racing Pigg for Fun and Profitt, Pigg Pointers for Beginners, and Proudfoot on the Pigg were very much in evidence once more. Frodo had nothing of use to contribute other than nods and ‘hmms’ and concerned expressions when Sam repeated his Gaffer’s opinion on the matter: ‘You breed that pig o’yorn to a proper Hobbiton boar, Samwise, not one o’them boars from foreign parts’.
In the end, the Gaffer’s opinion notwithstanding, Sam had settled on a Longbottom Lop, the same boar that was the sire of Bess, Fancy’s chief competition on the racing circuit.
“I reckon old Proudfoot is right, Frodo,” Sam had said sagely as he scrutinised the relevant passage in Proudfoot on the Pigg for the umpteenth time at least. “I was thinking on a boar that’s a littermate to Bess, but he says that if you like the offspring, you should mate with their sire.”
An image of the Gaffer’s grizzled and weather-beaten countenance had sprung into Frodo’s mind then, and left him feeling distinctly queasy. No, when it came right down to it, regardless of what old Proudfoot said, he’d take the offspring every time.
One day in early spring, Sam had taken Fancy off to the Southfarthing for her rendezvous with the Longbottom Lop, and in the fullness of time (three months, three weeks and three days, to be precise), the extremely pregnant-looking sow had farrowed eight tiny squirming, squealing black-and-white bundles of joy. Sam was in alt, and eagerly pointed out to Frodo the many merits of Fancy’s litter: their correct bone structure, sturdy limbs and vigorous suckling indicative of health and vitality. The Gaffer had even grudgingly allowed as how it was as fine a litter as he’d ever set eyes upon, an unexpected encomium that had left a jubilant Sam grinning from ear to ear.
The first weeks had passed pleasantly enough. Frodo enjoyed watching the baby pigs’ progress as they slowly grew and their eyes opened and they frolicked through the thick bed of straw lining the farrowing stall that Sam had built for the occasion. He began to think he’d been borrowing trouble for nothing, for surely there had never been eight such well-mannered and appealing piglets, nor a more devoted mother than Fancy.
Sam moved the piglets to their own enclosure after Fancy weaned them at four weeks of age, and it was shortly thereafter that the first ominous signs of trouble appeared, when a couple of the piglets escaped from the pen and unexpectedly appeared in the garden one day. “Clever pigs,” Sam had said in a doting voice as he gathered up the errant piglets.
Too clever by half, Frodo had discovered, for that escape was soon followed by others, and before long Frodo’s premonition of piglets running amok in the garden was coming true with distressing frequency. It wasn’t simply their presence in the garden, but while there they trampled the flowers, dug up the bulbs, munched on the nasturtians (for which they had a special fondness) and rooted in the potato patch. Frodo had given up counting the number of times in the past few weeks that he’d dashed outside, gathered up an armload of protesting baby pigs (whose squeals of indignation were akin to being stabbed in the skull by red-hot pokers) and returned them to the pigsty.
Sam, of course, bore it all with unimpaired good humour, an indulgent chuckle for the piglets’ ‘high spirits’, and a promise to an exasperated Frodo that he would fix the pen so that they couldn’t escape again. But it seemed that no matter what Sam tried, the piglets outwitted him and managed to find a way out of their confounded pen (as Frodo come to think of it). They didn’t need Ted Sandyman’s assistance, either.
That was all bad enough, but now the piglets were creating havoc inside the smial, and Frodo was not pleased. No, not pleased at all. He finished mopping up, carried the soiled water outside and disposed of it, then returned to the kitchen where he righted the fire irons and refilled the footbath. Only then did he make himself a badly needed cup of tea and some buttered toast. Sniffing the air, which still smelled a little ‘off’, Frodo decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retired to his study.
As he was not quite ready to forgive Sam for the morning’s disasters, Frodo pushed all thoughts of the night before and those lust-inducing, knee-weakening, golden-hair-sprinkled forearms from his mind in favour of making up a shopping list for the next market day.
It proved difficult to concentrate, however, for soon the tuneful sound of Sam’s whistle could be heard outside the study window. With an admirable display of self-control, Frodo banished the image of Sam’s sturdy sun-bronzed form from his mind and doggedly continued writing: tea, flour, currants, Sam. Drat! Frodo hastily scratched out the last word and substituted ‘salt’. Despite several such lapses, he eventually finished the list, dusted it with sand and blotted it, and then set it aside.
Filled with that sense of smug self-satisfaction that comes with completing a tedious task in the face of a near overwhelming temptation to abandon it, Frodo decided to tackle the accounts next. He pulled the ledger out of a desk drawer, opened it, and became absorbed in the adding and subtracting of numbers.
Frodo started; it was Sam, standing in the door and looking positively edible. His stomach growled. “Yes, Sam?”
“’Tis nearly time for lunch,” said Sam. “I’ll just go and get cleaned up and then make us a bite to eat. I’ve got fingerlings and fresh peas, and ripe strawberries and cream for afters, too.”
Despite his growling stomach and the mention of strawberries and cream, it definitely wasn’t food Frodo craved. But he also knew a peace offering when he heard one, and he was by now quite ready to forgive Sam.
“That will be lovely, my dear,” Frodo said with a beaming smile, and Sam’s answering smile held more than a touch of relief.
Frodo returned to his work, but it had gone from being difficult to concentrate to completely impossible. Right at that very moment, just down the hall, Sam was stripping in the bathing chamber, sliding the braces off his shoulders and removing his shirt. He was sluicing warm water over his sweaty bare chest and arms, and it was gleaming on his sun-kissed skin, and running in tiny rivulets down his abdomen (and even lower), just begging to be licked away...
Frodo stared at the numbers he had just added: 6 + 9 = 69. Drat, he thought again, but was suddenly struck by the extremely suggestive nature of the number ‘69’. He became lost in contemplation of him as the number ‘6’ and Sam as the number ‘9’, and the numbers seemed to quiver and move on the parchment, spurred on by his rampageous imagination…
It was simply too much temptation to resist, Frodo decided. He could finish the confounded accounts later. Right now there was an incredibly attractive (and damp) hobbit in the bathing chamber, waiting to be the ‘9’ to his ‘6’. He eagerly got up from his desk.
grunt grunt grunt grunt
grunt grunt grunt grunt
“Oh no!” Frodo dropped the quill onto the ledger with a splatter of ink, and ran to the window. He stood on tiptoe to peer outside. “Not again!”
But alas, there they were: Flame, Flirt, Fern, Flurry, Flare, Fidget, Frost and Flax, charging across the verdant lawn as fast as their short porcine legs could carry them, and heading straight for the nasturtians growing in profusion around the master bedroom window.
“Sam!” Frodo dashed out of the study into the hallway; he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Sam! The pigs are in the garden again!” Between thwarted lust and aggravation at yet another pig emergency, he sounded rather hysterical. But then, he felt rather hysterical. It simply wasn’t fair.
Seconds later, Sam emerged from the bathing chamber and came pelting down the hall, stuffing his shirttails into the waistband of his breeches with one hand and yanking up his braces with the other.
“I’m that sorry, Frodo,” he panted contritely when he slid to a halt at Frodo’s side. “I thought for sure I’d got the pen fixed this time so they couldn’t escape. I don’t know how they did it.”
Sam’s shirt was clinging damply to his skin, and his muscular chest was heaving with exertion. No, it simply wasn’t fair. Frodo ground his teeth in frustration, something else he’d been doing quite a lot of lately. “When did you say the farmers are coming to get their blas- that is to say, their pigs?” he asked, trying not to whine piteously.
“Wednesday next,” Sam said, and just as Frodo was thinking, And not a moment too soon, either, his beloved added in a doleful voice, “I’m going to miss them something fierce, Frodo. Well, except for Flame and Flare, o’course.”
“You mean Flame isn’t going?” There was definitely a hint of a whine creeping into his voice now. It had been settled that Sam would keep two of the piglets and sell the rest, but not which two were the chosen.
Once again, Sam appeared flabbergasted by Frodo’s dimness in pig matters. “O’course not. How could you think it? Didn’t you see the way she raced around the kitchen? Why, I've never seen such a turn of foot in a ten-week-old gilt, and that’s a fact. She’s going to be our next champion, Frodo, mark my words.”
Frodo was rendered utterly speechless. Pig blind. When it came to that havoc-making, mischievous piglet, Sam was pig blind to the point of absurdity. And as Frodo well knew, there was simply no cure for the condition. He sighed. “Come on, Sam,” he said in a resigned voice, “we’ve got some pigs to catch.”
The pigs, of course, had no desire to be caught, and did their best to avoid their pursuers. Frodo, trying to maintain his tenuous grip on the two piglets he’d already caught while he sprinted across the lawn in pursuit of a third that had a streamer of brilliant red and yellow nasturtians dangling from her snout, wondered if he looked even half as foolish as he felt.
He was about to find out. He had just cornered the errant gilt against the wall of the smial and scooped her squealing, protesting form up in his arms, when a loud and very annoyed voice said, “Frodo Baggins, what is the meaning of all this racket?”
Oh no! Frodo almost moaned the words aloud. As if things weren’t bad enough, his Aunt Lobelia Sackville-Baggins had to show up and he wondered how long she'd been watching them. He turned slowly around, to see his least favourite relation (one eminently deserving of a very ugly pig statuette), standing in the middle of the lawn with her arms akimbo, and staring at him suspiciously. “Are those pigs I see?” she demanded, her face creasing into an alarming frown.
The answer to that question seemed so blindingly obvious that Frodo didn’t dignify it with a response. Instead he said, raising his voice to be heard above the din (for the pigs were squealing at a volume that Sam would no doubt say demonstrated the lusty good health of their lungs), “Good day to you, Aunt. To what do I owe this, um, unexpected honour?”
Her expression sour enough to curdle fresh milk, Lobelia (obviously feeling that Frodo’s question was no more deserving of an answer than her own had been) said loudly and witheringly, “I should have expected something like this from a Brandybuck. Turning Bag End into a home for barnyard animals.”
Her gimlet-eyed stare went to Sam, standing a few feet away with four of the struggling, squealing piglets clasped against his chest, their small, kicking front legs draped over his forearms. He looked distinctly dissolute and disheveled, as if he’d just enjoyed a romp in the barn hayloft, and, in Frodo’s opinion, any hobbit who could take in such a sight without immediately falling in love was entirely lacking in good sense.
“Well, but what else could one expect, considering the company you keep?” Lobelia added, her thin lips curling in distaste (thus demonstrating that she was, unsurprisingly, completely lacking in the good sense department--but then she had, after all, married Otho Sackville-Baggins).
It was one thing to punch Ted Sandyman in the jaw for insulting Sam, but unfortunately, Lobelia, both as a female and a close relation, was strictly off-limits. An infuriated Frodo was trying to come up with a suitably polite yet withering retort when he noticed that Sam, a most peculiar look on his face, was staring fixedly at a spot by Lobelia’s feet. His own gaze dropped and his jaw dropped with it.
Her skirt was moving.
She was wearing a fashionable muslin dress of daffodil yellow with a quantity of frilled petticoats beneath so that the skirt belled out around her, and just a hint of fashionably coiffed foot hair could be seen. It was a sunny yet windless day, with no hint of breeze to stir leaves or, presumably, skirts--but hers was indubitably moving.
With a species of horrified fascination, Frodo watched the sides of the dress bulge out, all the while his aunt continued talking, completely oblivious to whatever was going on underneath. Her words washed over Frodo, but he barely heard them.
“…eccentric like your cousin…”
Suddenly, something white and tightly curled appeared, poking out from beneath the trailing hem of the skirt. It looked as if Lobelia had suddenly grown a tail. A pig tail. Frodo choked. He quickly counted up, and realised that there was one pig missing, a pig who had taken up residence under his aunt’s dress!
“…never should have adopted…”
Frodo’s eyes flew to Sam, just as his turned to Frodo. Their eyes locked. He’d seen it, too! Hysterical laughter bubbled up inside Frodo, and he could tell Sam was struggling to maintain his own composure. He bit his lip hard and looked quickly away again lest he lose control of himself.
“…disgraceful, shocking behaviour…”
The pig tail abruptly disappeared, and moments later a cute, damp, quivering upturned snout, Flame’s snout, replaced it. The piglet’s round little dark eyes, filled with mischief, peeked out, and Frodo would never forget the sight of her face framed by yellow muslin and frilled white petticoats as if she was dressed in the height of porcine fashion. Flame stared directly at him, and Frodo could have sworn that she dropped a wink before withdrawing her head again.
“…I have half a mind to--“
Suddenly, Lobelia stopped talking and stiffened, as if she’d been struck dumb by some spell of Gandalf’s. An indescribable expression passed over her features. She looked down, grasped her skirts on either side and slowly, ever so slowly, as though fearing what she might uncover, Lobelia raised them like the curtain coming up at the travelling players’ show. Surprisingly trim ankles were first revealed, then a pair of fine white cotton bloomers-- and last of all, Flame.
Flame stared at Lobelia. Lobelia stared at Flame. And then the pig raised its quivering damp snout and goosed her, very rudely, in the rump, obviously not for the first time.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Lobelia let out a shriek more ear-splitting than any pig squeal, dropped her skirts and bolted, displaying a turn of foot that Sam would later confess was extremely impressive, especially for a hobbit of her advanced age.
But at that precise moment, Sam was laughing much too hard to confess anything, and so for that matter was Frodo.
“G-goosed,” Frodo howled. “Flame g-goosed her, S-Sam.” He set down the three pigs he was holding, collapsed to the ground and rolled about, this way and that, laughing until the tears were streaming down his cheeks. Sam collapsed beside him, and the piglets, thinking this was very good sport indeed, frolicked around them, grunting and squealing and clambering all over them.
“Oh Flame,” Frodo eventually stuttered, sitting up and wiping eyes. “Did I say you were a very bad pig? I take it all back, every word. Any pig that can rout my Aunt Lobelia is a very good pig indeed!”
Flame struck a pose and preened a little.
It was difficult to round up the pigs and return them to their pen when every five seconds Frodo would make eye contact with Sam and start howling again, but eventually they managed to stagger down to the sty, the piglets were once again ensconced in their pen, and calm was restored.
Frodo, his sides aching, rested his elbows on the top railing of the wood fence that surrounded the pen, and watched the pigs as they rooted around. He was immediately able to pick out Flame by the white splotch on her shoulder, and he wondered that he hadn’t perceived earlier how exactly it resembled a flame. Sam was undoubtedly right: she was going to be a flyer, like her mum. He looked forward to cheering her on as she followed in Fancy’s cloven hoof prints.
Feeling eyes upon him, Frodo looked over and caught Sam watching him from his spot by the pen gate, a knowing expression on his face. “What?” Frodo asked, although he knew quite well what.
“Pig blind,” Sam said, grinning. “’Tis written all over you. Flame knew the way to your heart, now didn’t she, clever pig.”
“I’m not pig blind,” protested Frodo feebly and untruthfully. “Well, all right,” he conceded as Sam’s grin widened, “perhaps I am. But Flame still doesn’t belong in the kitchen, Sam.”
“I reckon maybe she don’t,” Sam allowed. “Leastways, not until she’s a bit older and has, erm, better control.”
“Not ever,” Frodo said. “She can’t come any further into Bag End than the front hall.”
Sam had been moving gradually closer as they spoke, and now he slid his arms around Frodo and pulled him close. Frodo couldn’t help but notice that Sam’s shirt was only partially buttoned, and one of his braces was dangling down by his hip, and his hair was delightfully disarranged, and he smelled deliciously of sun-warmed hobbit and lavender soap. He snuggled happily against Sam’s broad chest for a minute, but then his mind turned to the accounts and himself as the number ‘6’ and Sam as the number ‘9’, and impatience overcame every other emotion.
He stepped back and took Sam’s hand. “Come along, Sam dear,” Frodo said, “Let’s go back to the smial. I need your help with some arithmetic.”
Flame watched them go, a pleased gleam in her tiny round eyes, before settling down in the fragrant straw for a well-earned nap.